The New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Program is in the process of updating its statewide database so it will be able to streamline requests from government officials, health care facilities and other manufacturers looking to help during the coronavirus crisis.
During a conference call with nearly 200 participants Saturday morning, NJMEP CEO John Kennedy and Chief Operating Officer Rob Stramara encouraged all to join the database.
“We’re looking to get company information on capabilities, products created and current inventory,” Stramara said. “This way, as needs come to us, we’ll be able to make connections between different companies and organizations that have a need for product.
“Our goal is to populate this list, so we have it, we can analyze it and we can pass it along to the proper people to take care of not only short-term needs, but long-term needs.”
The database currently has nearly 9,000 companies, but most do not include some key items, such as retooling capabilities.
MEP officials, using information from the form, have created a CSC, or critical supply chain, database that already has well over 500 companies. They say they will use that information to help solve needs and handle requests as they come in.
Right now, Stramara and Kennedy said, manufacturing Personal Protection Equipment is the top priority.
“We’re talking about N95 safety masks, eye protection, sterile gowns, surgical gloves and other types of masks,” Stramara said. “That’s the immediate need.”
Kennedy knows those needs will be changing.
“This is going to be something in constant motion,” he said. “Everyone is looking at the PPE list, how we can take care of that, how we can supply it. But, certainly, there’s going to be medicine, medical devices, food and water, and a bunch of other things.”
That’s why Stramara and Kennedy are encouraging all manufacturers to get on the list. It will help make the case that all manufacturers should be considered essential.
“If you shut down labeling companies and packaging companies, it’s kind of hard to ship drugs, foods, etc.,” Kennedy said.
Stramara said the list already has a wide range of capabilities.
“Safety products, food and beverage, chemical, warehousing and distribution centers, printing and labeling companies, machine shops, injection moldings and more,” he said. “That’s just a sample. In some way shape or form, some are applicable.
“If we can plug companies in to support others, we’ll do it. At the end of the day, we want to (help) you guys and we want to be able to address the needs of our state.”
There are challenges, Kennedy said.
“The fact is that there are issues,” he said. “Everyone wants firms to retool and make other stuff on the fly, but that is not easy on many levels. There are (Food and Drug Administration and Occupational Safety and Health Administration) requirements for some of these items that have to be met. We can’t hurt people by trying to help them.”
Kennedy said NJMEP is determined to find a way.
“We’re just going to put our heads down, move forward and try to do it in a logical way,” he said. “Panic isn’t going to help us. So, let’s figure this out.”
He said the reaction from government officials as well as manufacturers has been great.
“The New Jersey manufacturing sector has been amazing, to say the least,” he said. “We have heard from over 5,000 companies this past week, and only one has had to shut down due to a lack of incoming orders.”
Kennedy said he’s looking to keep all of them going while helping the state.
“What we’re hoping to do is connect companies with the needs we have in the next few weeks and can support our cause during these trying times,” he said.